Thursday, August 7, 2014
Rams will get a look at QB that almost was
By Nick Wagoner
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- When St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 7 last season, the team left no stone unturned in its search for potential replacements.
Although the Rams eventually settled on in-house option Kellen Clemens, they investigated every nook and cranny in the quarterback universe, even the one where Brett Favre resides. In the end, they brought back a familiar face in Austin Davis and signed veteran Brady Quinn as backups to Clemens. But they missed on the one player they really wanted, the only option they looked at who might have a long-term future in the league: the Saints' Ryan Griffin.
When the Rams and Saints open the preseason against each other Friday at the Edward Jones Dome, chances are good St. Louis will get a good, long look at the quarterback who almost became a Ram. Saints starter Drew Brees isn't expected to play though he hasn't been officially ruled out. Even if Brees does play, Griffin figures to get plenty of work as the Saints try to sort out the battle for the backup job between Griffin and veteran Luke McCown.
As Griffin begins his second season, he finds himself well ahead of where he was as a rookie.
“Coming in as a rookie you don’t really know what to expect, and so you kind of come in wide-eyed and you have no idea," Griffin told ESPN Saints reporter Mike Triplett. "This year I kind of had a general idea of how practice was going and what the tempo was like and how players practice. Just receiving that experience and having a year under my belt really helped. I’m just trying to improve on that and keep moving forward.”
Stuck on the New Orleans practice squad, Griffin showed enough promise in the preseason that the Rams coveted him. As with all practice squad players, Griffin was there for the poaching with the lone condition being you had to sign him to the active roster. That was no problem for the Rams, who intended to make him the primary backup to Clemens and potentially push for that role behind Bradford beyond 2013.
Before the Rams could get Griffin signed, though, the Saints made it clear how highly they think of the then-undrafted rookie from Tulane. New Orleans blocked the move by choosing to sign Griffin to its own active roster.
The interest from the Rams combined with the promotion from the Saints helped Griffin's confidence.
"Definitely, this business here, you are always confident in yourself and you have to be," Griffin said. "To have another team come out and kind of demonstrate that it makes you feel better. Like I said, it’s a process every day, that’s obviously a positive, but you’re always trying to get better and you’re always looking for ways to improve."
Not that the Rams have done any sort of major game planning, but out of curiosity, I asked Triplett for a quick scouting report on the 6-foot-5, 206-pound Griffin as he enters his second season. Here's Triplett's breakdown:
"I think he’s been really impressive for an undrafted rookie and has a very legitimate shot to win the backup job [right now it’s even competition between him and returning vet Luke McCown]. Griffin will have to prove he’s capable during the preseason. But he seems confident, poised, mature and hasn’t shown a lot of growing pains on the practice field. He looked particularly good in Saturday’s scrimmage while Brees was out, hitting Jimmy Graham and Brandin Cooks for big plays, among others.
"Griffin made a smooth transition to the Saints’ offense [and they had some insider info on him] since he played with some of the same offensive tendencies/system at Tulane, where longtime former Saints receivers coach Curtis Johnson took over as his head coach midway through his career. And this year the Saints hired former Tulane QB coach Mike Neu as their QB coach. … Griffin’s got size and a strong arm but also some touch and savvy to run a West-Coast style offense. He’s shown a little ability to escape pressure but is mostly a classic drop back style passer."